Saturday, November 15, 2008

People - Sarikei Cantonese Kapitan Khoo Peng Loong 邱炳农 (1904-1979)

What's the story behind Khoo Peng Loong, 邱炳, the Sarikei Cantonese kapitan after Chan Wei 偉 and before Chen Ko Ming 陳高明? These were some of the big Sarikei personalities that moulded Sarikei downtown in the early days.


Sarikei Khoo Peng Loong, 1970
Source: Sibu Chinese History Collection 詩巫華族史科集, 1992


Peng Loong was born on 23 Feb 1904 in Medan 棉蘭, Sumatra, Indonesia. His ancestors came from Tai Shan 台山county level city, Jiangmen 江门 prefecture level city, Guang Dong, China. In his early days, he achieved excellent academic results at St Xavier's Institution, Penang, Malaysia. After graduation, he came with his parents to Sarikei in 1931 to do business. (Source: 1). He was English educated and did not learn Mandarin.

His pretty and well dressed wife came from Penang. Sarikei people nicknamed her "Modern" for her modern make up. They had two sons, Ron in UK and Stanley in Kuching, and a daughter (Julie) in UK.

Peng Loong initiated a donation drive of $50 each to reach a sum of $1000 to purchase a piece of land at 2.5 mile Repok Road from 鐘海松, a Hakka. Chan Wei 陳偉, the Cantonese kapitan then, and the Hokkien kapitan then, Ling Zhao Bian 林昭邊, (of Chop Lim Heng Teck 林恒德, No. 4 Wharf Road) applied to the government to get approval for this to be designated as the Cantonese and Hokkien cemetery of Sarikei in the 1930s. (Source: 2)



Sarikei Khoo Peng Loong
Source: Who's Who in SE Asia, Volume 3, 1969
Submitted by: Ease Chen


His father was fondly called Khoo Bak Fu and he loved to wear his Chinaman outfit and enjoyed mahjong. His mother was a stylish lady who enjoyed mahjong too. Peng Loong started Kong Con Mau 广忪茂 business at No. 10 Wharf Road (rented from Wong Koh Chiong 黄可川 at $60/month; now occupied by 富春 Fu Chen ) and had a license to sell hunting guns. (Source: 3)

Wong Koh Chiong 黄可川 of Thong Aik 益 shop (No.1 Wharf Road) tendered for the land which the Bank Road block and Repok Road Block 2 Right are situated now but he passed away before World War II. The land was owned by 2 Wong's and others. Peng Loong became the contractor of these two shop blocks and completed them in 1946. He owned a shop unit at the Bank Road block. (Source: 3)

In the early days, no one had a radio until Chinese Chamber of Commerce spent $500 on a Philip radio. It was locked up on level 2 of the Chamber's building. It was a milestone for Sarikei's trade as the business men needed to know the latest price of commodities such as pepper. No one had the confidence to tune the radio then and Peng Loong, the chairman, would be entrusted to do the task. Imagine the sight of all the big towkays surrounding Peng Loong and the Philip radio anxiously on a daily basis. His son was once the manager of CTC sawmill and the husband of probably the most sophisticatedly dressed lady of her era. (Source: 3)


One day, Peng Loong heard on the BBC that the war had broken out in Europe and all transport to the east would cease. So he, Wong Ngiong Hua and a few others grouped to sell
all their stock of rubber to Wong Koh Chiong 黄可川 who was the biggest exporter at that time. Rubber price then dropped drastically. Three days later, America and Japan were hard pressed for war. Rubber was needed for war plane and vehicle tyres. The world rushed to buy all the stock in Singapore and Malaya. Rubber price ballooned and Wong Koh Chiong 黄可川 was the one who turned a loss into a profit in the volatile market.


Sarikei Khoo Peng Loong
Source: Who's Who in Malaysia, 1971
Submitted by: Ease Chen


Peng Loong moved to Sibu in 1951. He later became the Managing Director of Syrikat Peng Guan Distillery of Sarawak, based in Sibu.

In 1955, the old graveyard at Bukit Lima, Sibu, had been fully occupied. The Cantonese under the leadership of Peng Loong formed the Cantonese Association of Sibu to look after its members. The registration was approved on 15 Dec 1955 with Peng Loong as its first Chairman. The new graveyard was built at Aup Quarry Road, Sibu. (Source: 4)

In 1959, he was bestowed OBE by the Queen of England. In 1965, he won seats under SUPP (an opposition party then) as Repok assemblyman and Sibu MP. In the 1970 state election, he defeated Chen Ko Ming by 2399 to 1787 votes. In 1970, he was bestowed PNBS "Datuk" by the Sarawak Governor. He retired in 1978 and passed away in 1979.

Sarikei Khoo Peng Loong
Source: Who's Who in Malaysia, 1973-1974
Submitted by: Ease Chen


Extract from Borneo Post (Source: 5)
English-educated Khoo began his political career as early as the 1950’s. His hospitality and down-to-earth attitude in serving the public was believed to be behind his huge popularity with all the communities in Sarikei and in Sibu.

In 1959, together with 35 people, he co-founded the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP). The Sibu branch was only officially registered on June 21, 1959, and he was elected its vice-chairman.

In 1963, the Sarawak government held its triennial election on a three tier-system — district level, divisional level and the Legislative Council.

There were then 24 district and urban councils in Sarawak and 429 councillors would be elected to fill all the tiers.

From the 24 councils, represented by the 429 councillors, 109 would be elected to sit in the five Divisional Advisory Councils. The 36 Legislative Council members were, in turn, elected by the five Divisional Advisory Councils.

Khoo represented the SUPP and won the councillor’s post for the second zone of the Sibu Urban District Council (SUDC) when he defeated Ling Beng Siew, chairman of the Sarawak Chinese Association (SCA). Following his victory, Khoo was appointed SUDC chairman — a post he held till 1964 when he was appointed a Federal Member of Parliament for Sibu.

In 1965, Sarawak held its first combined State and Federal elections and Khoo, standing on the SUPP ticket, convincingly won both seats as Repok assemblyman and Sibu MP.

SUPP was an opposition party at the time and it allowed its candidate to contest both state and parliamentary seats during the election.

Capturing both seats was a very rare feat at that time. And for Khoo, popularity came at a heavy price as his political nemesis began plotting his downfall.

However, Khoo stood firm against the allegations hurled at him. His standing as a good leader among the people helped pull him through.

He always believed that to move forward, SUPP members must remain united, speak with one voice and push forward with one principle.

Once, he reportedly told party members that any disagreement among them must be discussed openly to help the party leaders reach a consensus.

As the party grew from strength to strength, the colonial government began putting pressure on it.

Towards the late 1960’s, many of its members defected. Khoo was also approached to quit the party but he did not budge.

By 1974, with age catching up, he became less active in politics. In 1976, to show its appreciation for Khoo’s contributions, the Sibu Urban District Council renamed Pulau Babi Road Jalan Khoo Peng Loong.

Khoo passed away in 1979.


Sources:
1. Who's Who in Malaysia, 1971
2. Article: Interview with 張武祥 who came to Sarikei in 1927
3. Reader Lidasar
4. Sibu Chinese History Collection 詩巫華族史科集, 1992
5.
Borneo Post (by Philip Wong)

11 comments:

Daniel Yiek said...

he next person we should blog on is Siaw Ah Khoon. I have rec'd info from Ikan Sembilang and previous comments by Lidasar. Does anyone have articles on him?

I have to say that previous comments by reader Lidasar on Khoo Peng Loong have been accurate (when compared to documented sources). eg. his birthplace in Sumatra and his ancestors were from "Hoi San". The Borneo Post writer got it wrong when he wrote that Peng Loong was born in Sarikei.

nelson said...

now i know who's khoo peng loong. if not mistaken, medan, sumatra has the highest concentration of chinese ppl in indonesia. not sure about jakarta, surely a lot too.

Marcus Khoo said...

Hi, Khoo Peng Loong is my grandfather and I knew practically nothing about him until reading this post. Thank you for compiling it.
By the way the only mistake I saw is that his son "Tony" in the UK is actually "Ron" (my dad).
Thanks again
Marcus Khoo

Daniel Yiek said...

Marcus
Thanks for dropping by.

Have corrected the mistake. :)

Desyanti Oentari said...

hi Marcus,i'm glad to know u as Khoo Peng Loong grandson..
I'm one of his family...(from Mrs.Khoo Peng Loong)
i just know about Khoo Peng Loong from this blog..
I wish i can know more about Mr.Khoo Peng Loong family...

thx
nb : @Marcus : can i have your email address

Daniel Yiek said...

From marshland to busy business centre
By Philip Wong
The Borneo Post

FEW people here nowadays know that Jalan Khoo Peng Long was once a stretch of marshland opposite the Tua Pek Kong Temple.

The marshland was separated from the town by one of several streams gushing into the Lembangan River, a tributary of the Rajang River flowing adjacent to Jalan Channel and ending somewhere along Jalan Tiong Hua (popularly known here as Red River).

Another tributary, starting from Jalan Channel, cuts through Jalan Kampung Nyabor before ending up at the Sibu Town Square.

Basically, the river splits Sibu into three parts — the hugh marshland, Sibu Island (presently Jalan Island area) and mainland Sibu (opposite the Lembangan River).

There is also a small isolated island, known as Pulau Babi, washed by a third and smaller tributary of the Lembangan River. Due to its close proximity to the Rajang River, the island once served as place for slaughtering pigs.

It is believed that people back then showed little concern for the health and hygiene problems caused by this activity. Just any place they could find near the riverbank would do, especially with water readily available for washing and cleaning. Moreover, the river was a convenient place to dump carcasses.

Everyday, pigs were taken across a wooden bridge to the island to be slaughtered. This bridge, linking Jalan Khoo Peng Loong to Jalan Channel, has since been upgraded.

Once on the island, the pigs were kept in an abattoir and after slaughter, would be sent back to the market on mainland Sibu. Over time, the island became known to the locals as Pulau Babi or Pig Island.

“The island is not particularly big — about the size of a football field,” recalled 68-year-old retired businessman Soon Choon Hoo.

Together with his friends after school each day, he would paddle a sampan from his house at Jalan Long Bridge to Sibu town.

Normally, it took about 30 minutes to reach the town. Along the way, they passed the marshland and Pulau Babi.

Soon said they would also gather floating timber logs and brought them back home for firewood.

“I could also remember there was a big tree somewhere along Lembangan River where we used to play Tarzan,” he added.

Soon never ventured into Pulau Babi because of the “very muddy” land there.

Daniel Yiek said...

“By the 1950’s, the island was more or less isolated. People no longer slaughtered pigs there. We also heard stories that the island could be infested with snakes and poisonous insects … so we kept our distance.”

Towards the late 1950’s, Soon, still a schoolboy then, said the area underwent tremendous development and businesses were thriving on the marshland following the construction of two rows of 24 shophouses there by the Borneo Development Corporation.

Under Phase One, 11 two-storey shophouses were built in 1963 and completed two years later. Phase II which started in 1968, was completed in 1970.

Subsequently, the area experienced a business boom, transforming the once shunned marshland into a place of trade and commerce which, in the 1970’s and 80’s, was reputed to be one of the busiest areas in Sibu.

Everyday, warehouses, offices and other government buildings at the place were buzzing with loading and unloading activities.

During those days, the area also served as a busy shipping transit centre and the business hub for the central region (then known as Sibu Division).

But how did the place come to be associated with the name Khoo Peng Loong? A look at the lifetime achievements of the man will shed some light.

Khoo was a close family friend of Soon’s father. They co-owned a business called Peng Guan Distillery Factory. Khoo was the board of directors chairman while Soon’s father, the director.

Soon himself knows very little about Khoo other than he was a popular public figure and an entrepreneur with a pleasant personality.

According to his biography extracted from the Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association, Khoo was also a friendly and approachable politician who worked very hard for the various communities in Sibu.

Born in Sarikei, English-educated Khoo began his political career as early as the 1950’s. His hospitality and down-to-earth attitude in serving the public was believed to be behind his huge popularity with all the communities in Sarikei and in Sibu.

In 1959, together with 35 people, he co-founded the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP). The Sibu branch was only officially registered on June 21, 1959, and he was elected its vice-chairman.

In 1963, the Sarawak government held its triennial election on a three tier-system — district level, divisional level and the Legislative Council.

There were then 24 district and urban councils in Sarawak and 429 councillors would be elected to fill all the tiers.

From the 24 councils, represented by the 429 councillors, 109 would be elected to sit in the five Divisional Advisory Councils. The 36 Legislative Council members were, in turn, elected by the five Divisional Advisory Councils.

Daniel Yiek said...

Khoo represented the SUPP and won the councillor’s post for the second zone of the Sibu Urban District Council (SUDC) when he defeated Ling Beng Siew, chairman of the Sarawak Chinese Association (SCA). Following his victory, Khoo was appointed SUDC chairman — a post he held till 1964 when he was appointed a Federal Member of Parliament for Sibu.

In 1965, Sarawak held its first combined State and Federal elections and Khoo, standing on the SUPP ticket, convincingly won both seats as Repok assemblyman and Sibu MP.

SUPP was an opposition party at the time and it allowed its candidate to contest both state and parliamentary seats during the election.

Capturing both seats was a very rare feat at that time. And for Khoo, popularity came at a heavy price as his political nemesis began plotting his downfall.

However, Khoo stood firm against the allegations hurled at him. His standing as a good leader among the people helped pull him through.

He always believed that to move forward, SUPP members must remain united, speak with one voice and push forward with one principle.

Once, he reportedly told party members that any disagreement among them must be discussed openly to help the party leaders reach a consensus.

As the party grew from strength to strength, the colonial government began putting pressure on it.

Towards the late 1960’s, many of its members defected. Khoo was also approached to quit the party but he did not budge.

By 1974, with age catching up, he became less active in politics. In 1976, to show its appreciation for Khoo’s contributions, the Sibu Urban District Council renamed Pulau Babi Road Jalan Khoo Peng Loong.

Khoo passed away in 1979.

Fabian Khoo said...

I am dumbfounded and overwhelmed by what I have read about my late grandfather, Khoo Peng Loong. Honestly Daniel, you know more about my grandfather than me!!Thanks for time you have spent writing this. There isn't much to correct except that he has 3 children, 2 sons and a daughter. The daughter (Julie) is also in UK.
Thank you once again and God bless.

Fabian Khoo

Julie Khoo said...

Daniel

Thank you very much for your heart warming article on my dad. As a politician, he was a man full of integrity and strong moral principles. He told me that a politician should live by the code “death before dishonour” and I admire how he never waivered from that. As a father he was very supportive and always encourages me to be independent and be confident, to do things for myself rather than have it done for me. This is something precious that he gave to me and will stay with me forever.
Having told my son about his grandfather, your article helps put everything in perspective especially when we are so far away, so thanks a million again

Kind regards,

Julie
London, England

Daniel Yiek said...

Thanks Fabian and Julie for the update. Have corrected the blog with 2 sons and 1 daughter.

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